Organ meats are an untapped resource in most healthy eaters’ diets. Although your grandparents and every antecedent generation likely grew up eating liver and onions, kidney pie, and organ meats stuffed into sausages, the people reading this blog largely did not. Now it is your job to rediscover what they were blessed to grow up eating. It may not be easy, it may take some effort, but it is worthwhile. Luckily, the beauty of organ meats lies in their nutrient-density—you don’t need to eat it every day to get the benefits. In fact, you shouldn’t eat most of them everyday.
In general, the same organ from different animals will confer similar health benefits. A liver will be rich in vitamin A and iron whether it comes from cow, pig, lamb, or chicken. But there are some differences between species, and when those differences are significant I will make a note of it in the article.
Without further ado, let’s learn about all the various organ meats.
Instantly download your Guide to Cooking Fats and Oils
Probably my favorite organ to eat, heart is more like extremely nutrient-dense muscle meat than it is any other organ you’ll encounter. It’s very high in vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin. It’s rich in zinc, iron, selenium, and, best of all, CoQ10. CoQ10 is an interesting nutrient that increases production of ATP, the body’s energy currency. We can make it ourselves, but it seems to help have an external source, too. For instance, statin users especially need to take CoQ10 because the drug inhibits CoQ10 production along with cholesterol synthesis; doing so can stave off some of the muscle damage statin users often experience.
Pros: Heart gives me tons of energy. The most “high” I ever felt from eating normal food was when a friend served me up some fresh venison heart, just killed. It was like several shots of espresso, only cleaner. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t sleep. I ended up staying up getting a ton of work done. And then, after a couple hours, I was able to sleep normally. Maybe it was the CoQ10, or maybe something else.
Cons: Sometimes trimming the hearts can be difficult. There are a lot of fibrous parts that can detract from the eating experience.
Some people like to braise hearts for hours and hours, treating it like strew meat. I prefer slicing them horizontally into strips and searing them like steaks, quickly over high heat. Medium rare, always. Either that, or Peruvian-style anticuchos (which I can always find here in Miami).
If you get chicken (or turkey, or duck) hearts, marinate them in vinegar, hot chilis, soy sauce, and a little honey and grill them on skewers over flame or coal.
Read next: The Definitive Guide to the Carnivore Diet
I like to call liver nature’s multivitamin because it’s the single most nutrient-dense cut of the animal on the planet. Rich in vitamin A, iron, every B-vitamin except for thiamine (and it even has a decent dose of thiamine), choline, zinc, selenium, and vitamin D (if the animal is a fish or pasture-raised pig), liver
Fish livers have the added benefit of providing tons of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Poultry livers are a bit higher in iron and lower in vitamin A than mammalian livers.
Pros: Delicious if you cook it right (to medium/medium-rare, still pink) and use a healthy liver from a freshly killed animal. As liver is the storage place for the “animal form” of glucose—glycogen—fresh liver can be sweet. This sweetness disappears as time-from-slaughter increases, however.
Cons: Absolutely wretched if you cook it wrong. An overcooked liver turns chalky and grey, fibrous and revolting. Once the animal is killed, the liver begins degrading its glycogen. Glycogen counters the inherent bitterness of liver, so if the glycogen is gone the liver will taste bitter. This is why most people hate liver—they’ve never had a fresh one prepared the right way.
One of my favorite ways to cook liver is using this Terry Wahls recipe for Middle Eastern Lamb Liver. It also works with beef or chicken. Or, you could try prosciutto-wrapped chicken livers. Either way, the trick is not to overcook it.
Another great way is to sauté ginger, garlic, and onions, add gelatinous bone broth, reduce until it’s syrupy, and then add salt and chopped liver to briefly cook for 1-2 minutes. Makes a really rich sauce.
And if you’re truly adventurous, you could marinate thinly sliced beef liver in a mixture of fish sauce, sesame oil, and lemon juice and eat it raw like carpaccio. Sourcing is key here, because parasites and hepatitis are a risk if you’re not cooking your liver.
Kidney has a similar nutrient profile to liver, albeit one lower in vitamin A and much higher in selenium and riboflavin. It’s slightly higher in thiamine and slightly lower in folate, niacin, and pyridoxine. The extreme selenium content means you probably shouldn’t eat kidney every day, just like the retinol content means you shouldn’t eat liver every day.
Pros: Kidney is very inexpensive, can be eaten slightly more frequently than liver due to the lower retinol levels, and often comes with suet attached—the fat in and around the kidneys which is loaded with stearic acid. The stronger flavors of kidney means it can stand up to bolder, zestier seasonings, giving you a lot of freedom in the kitchen to experiment.
Cons: Kidney can have a very disagreeable flavor unless it’s prepared right. Liver gets a bad rap but if you get a fresh one and avoid overcooking it, you can usually make it tolerable and even downright delicious. Kidney needs prep time, and older animals produce stronger-tasting kidneys. Lamb kidneys are usually milder and more tender than beef kidneys.
Bone marrow may not “feel” or look like an organ, but it is. Bone marrow is an active participant in dozens of physiological processes and contains osteoblasts (which form bone), osteoclasts (which control bone resorption), and fibroblasts (which form connective tissue). It is anything but inert biological material, meaning it possesses a number of beneficial micronutrients used to conduct those processes in the body. The thing is, the actionable components in bone marrow aren’t identified. Sure, you’ve got some B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium among other “classic” micronutrients, but there’s all sorts of other interesting stuff in marrow that doesn’t show up in the USDA nutritional database.
Pros: You’re eating one of hominid’s “first foods.” Back before we were apex hunters, we could pick up a big rock and smash the leftover femurs that other top but less cunning predators couldn’t utilize, giving us access to the marrow.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440529‘>1 Two main causes of leaky gut are imbalanced gut microbiome—having too many bad microbes and/or not enough of the good guys—and harmful compounds in food, such as gluten.
Carnivore eliminates plant foods, which are the source of most of those harmful compounds, and it offers a hard reset for the microbiome. One study showed profound microbial changes in the gut after just a few days of shifting to carnivore.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323151200_Therapeutic_protocol_of_ICMNI_-_Paleomedicina_Hungary‘>3 However, the precise data is not published anywhere to my knowledge.
Carnivore for Arthritis
Mikhaila Peterson famously overcame debilitating rheumatoid arthritis with her all-meat diet. In his book The Carnivore Diet, carnivore drum-banger Shawn Baker claims that joint pain is frequently alleviated by carnivore, in his experience.
However, most research has focused on vegetarian diets. A few studies have demonstrated the benefits of a Mediterranean diet,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK74220/‘>5 for decreasing inflammation and pain among rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis patients. One small, short-term study found no significant benefit of a ketogenic diet.https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19651402878‘>7 Check out the author’s commentary from the discussion:
“When man changed from food-gatherer (nomadic hunter) to food-producer, epochal changes in his ecology (to village community, urbanization and eventually to civilization) were paralleled by similar changes in his diet. The two or three millennia in prehistory during which the transition to agriculture took place is a relatively short period in the biological history of man. In terms of human evolution, this transition could be too sudden for the development of an adequate adaptive response to the drastic changes in his dietetic habits. The idea advanced here is that the challenge to man’s metabolism by the protein-complex of wheat (and rye) could lead to obscure syndromes;…”
Hypothyroidism and the Carnivore Diet
Individuals with hypothyroidism, including autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, frequently rely on dietary interventions like the autoimmune protocol (AIP), paleo, Primal, keto, and now carnivore. Despite abundant anecdotal evidence that they help, there have been few confirmatory studies to date.
Two recent papers confirm that AIPhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060266‘>9 are feasible and can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life for people with Hashimoto’s. The Paleomedicina team has also reported that they can successfully treat hypothyroidism with the PKD, but those data are not available in journal articles.
Carnivore Diet for Psoriasis
On the one hand, calorie-restrictedhttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29926091/‘>11 and gluten-freehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8219661‘>13 https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19671407267‘>15 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/528773‘>17 A recent controlled study in mice found the same.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26559897/‘>19 Still, I think it’s likely that some of those lucky folks experienced relief because they removed triggers like gluten, eggs, or dairy. They may not have needed to go full carnivore.
Carnivore Diet for IBS
If a carnivore diet can potentially reduce intestinal permeability, favorably shift the microbiome, and reduce systemic inflammation, it should help with gastrointestinal problems like IBS.
Clinicians often recommend low-fiber and low-residue diets for their IBS patients.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3966170/‘>21 In studies, up to three-quarters of patients find relief.http://www.academia.edu/download/54060434/Crohn_disease__2016.pdf‘>23
What about Using Carnivore to Treat Gastritis?
Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. Generally, it’s treated with medications like antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, or antacids, depending on what’s causing the inflammation. There’s very little research looking at dietary interventions to treat gastritis—in humans anyway. You’re in luck if you’re interested in cheetah or ferret gastritis, though.
If you have gastritis caused by H. pylori bacteria, I’d recommend you tackle that directly with the help of a medical practitioner. Otherwise, it’s certainly worth exploring what foods, if any, exacerbate your symptoms. Starting with a carnivore diet as a baseline and then reintroducing foods slowly is one way to do so.
Could a Carnivore Diet Ease Depression?
Converging evidence suggests a link between diet and depression, and a role for dietary modification in treating depression. First, it’s increasingly clear that there is a strong connection between gut health and depression, thanks to the gut-brain axis.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25415497‘>25 Many experts also consider systemic inflammation to be a root cause of depression.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/diagnosis-diet/201904/the-carnivore-diet-mental-health‘>27
A 2015 review of dietary interventions for depression and anxiety found that they frequently include recommendations to reduce red meat intake, but that makes them less likely to be effective.https://www.jstor.org/stable/48515238‘>29
Carnivore Diet to Reverse Gum Disease?
You probably learned as a child that sugar is public enemy number one when it comes to dental health. In part, that’s because it disrupts the oral microbiome. That’s only part of the story, though. Gum health also goes hand-in-hand with gut health and systemic inflammation. That’s why gingivitis and periodontitis are common among diabetic folks—because of the hyperglycemia and chronic inflammation characteristic of poorly controlled diabetes.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19958441‘>31
Carnivore advocate Jordan Peterson, Mikhaila’s father, claims to have reversed his own gum problems once he went all-meat. Some indirect evidence backs his experience:
- In one small study, researchers replicated a Stone Age village and set up ten people to live there for four weeks. Despite having no access to toothbrushes or their handy waterpiks, their gum health increased.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/4962497/‘>33 In a follow-up, participants experienced less gum bleeding after four weeks on the diet, and they also happened to lose weight.https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/82/1/41/4863422‘>35 High-protein (not carnivore) diets are shown repeatedly in laboratory studies to be favorable for weight loss.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17622289‘>37 https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/013e/ed607e1a519877fe336f48a54ab0906051a3.pdf‘>39 It’s not clear if the patient was carnivore over the entire period.
- Another one of their patients used the PKD following a diagnosis of rectal cancer. His symptoms and cancer markers improved when he followed the diet religiously, but he was unable to do so long-term. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5842847/‘>41 https://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/JCO.2018.36.15_suppl.e15709‘>43 Quite the opposite of what the fearmongers would have you believe.
Will a Carnivore Diet Cause Gout?
Gout is a painful form of arthritis that occurs when urate crystals build up in joints. It can be triggered or exacerbated by foods and beverages that contain purines, which are metabolized into uric acid. Red meat and organ meats are primary sources of purines, so doctors often advise people to limit or eliminate them from their diets—despite consistent evidence that it actually helps.
As I’ve written before, prescribing low-meat diets for gout is a case of faulty logic. For one thing, meat is hardly the only dietary source of purines. Vegetarians and vegans also suffer from gout, and, according to one study, vegans have higher serum levels of uric acid.https://acrabstracts.org/abstract/high-protein-diet-atkins-diet-and-uric-acid-response/‘>45
We should be looking to sugar, especially fructose, and alcohol as more likely culprits, and addressing underlying metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance that make gout more likely. That said, if you already know that red meat and offal trigger your gout, there’s no reason to add more in the hopes that that will fix it.
Is a Carnivore Diet Bad for Women?
This is the same concern lobbied against keto, namely that any “restrictive” diet is dangerous for premenopausal women. There’s a kernel of truth here. Women’s bodies are more sensitive to calorie and nutrient insufficiencies during their reproductive years. All that means, though, is that they have to be especially mindful about getting enough nutritious food. This can be more difficult with diets like carnivore and keto, which tend to be highly satiating, but it can certainly be done.
For what it’s worth, some of the most outspoken carnivore advocates are women like Peterson and Amber O’Hearn who used a carnivore diet to completely turn their health around for the better.
General Advice and Cautions
In the absence of solid scientific evidence regarding the benefits or downsides of carnivore diets, what is a data-minded, health-conscious individual to do?
Follow the advice I’ve previously offered regarding eating nose-to-tail, including plenty of healthy fats, and supplementing as needed.
Stay flexible. As more data and new insights come along, be willing to adjust, even abandon, your approach if that seems wise. Never be afraid to pivot.
Consult your doctor about your specific situation. Ask if there are specific reasons a carnivore diet might be contraindicated for you.
Is There Anything Carnivore Can’t Do?
Definitely. It might well help a lot of people with a lot of different issues, but it’s not a panacea.
I’m also not convinced it’s wholly necessary for everyone who tries it. At the end of the day, the average person will benefit tremendously from any diet that gets them away from sugar and ultra-refined grain products, and toward a diet comprised of whole, natural foods. Primal, paleo, Mediterranean—these are probably sufficient for many folks. But then, desperate times may call for desperate measures.
As with any intervention, be it diet, lifestyle, pharmaceutical, or other, there will be some people for whom it works wonder and some for whom it works not at all. Carnivore is no different. Is it worth trying if you have a chronic issue that you believe may be diet-related? Absolutely, with your doctor’s knowledge, of course. Would I feel comfortable offering a 100 percent money-back guarantee? Nope.
The fact remains, all we have to go on right now are anecdotes and circumstantial evidence. These are powerful anecdotes to be sure, and ones that I have no reason to doubt. Still, I’m eager for well-controlled scientific studies, which unfortunately aren’t forthcoming. Until then, I’ll continue to support everyone in wise self-experimentation.
Tell me: if you’ve tried a carnivore diet, what was your experience?
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1754463/[ /ref] greater fish intake,[ref]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5740014/
Powered by WPeMatico
By far the most exciting health trend to hit the scene in the last few years is the Carnivore Diet. Tens of thousands of people are adopting it. Passionate online communities devoted to discussing and extolling the virtues of exclusive meat-eating have sprung up. And while in raw numbers it isn’t as big as keto, “carnivore diet” is running neck and neck with “vegan diet” on Google Trends for the past year. It’s one I’ve been watching for a long time.
Over ten years ago, I addressed the idea of a zero-carb carnivorous diet right here on this blog.
A few years ago, I went over the advantages and shortcomings of the carnivore diet and even gave my suggestions for making it work better.
Earlier this year, I explored the notion of a seafood-based carnivorous diet.
Today, I’m going to pull it all together and give an overview—a definitive guide, if you will.
Instantly download your Primal and Keto Guide to Eating Out
Okay, so what is the Carnivore Diet?
It’s quite simple (which is part of the appeal and effectiveness). You eat meat and don’t eat plants.
If it explored three-dimensional space by hoof, claw, wing, or tail, had live kin or laid eggs, and defended itself with direct action, non-violent resistance, or by fleeing, you can eat it (and its products). If it rooted itself to the ground, reproduced by bee, consumed sunlight and water, and defended itself with chemical compounds, you cannot eat it (or its products).
If it sounds extreme, you’re right. The carnivore diet is unlike anything most people have ever considered.
But adoption rates aren’t exploding because everyone’s deluding themselves: People are reporting real benefits.
Clearer thinking: If a carnivore diet induces a state of ketosis, it will also increase mitochondrial biogenesis in the brain and reduce brain fog. This allows your brain to generate more energy and clears out excess ammonia which slows down the thinking process.
Improved gut health: A carnivore diet is an extreme elimination diet. It eliminates all the most common triggers of gut inflammation, including fiber, lectins, grains, legumes, sugar, seed oils, and in some cases dairy. If any of those foods are the cause of your gut inflammation, removing them from your diet will improve your gut health and even allow it to heal.
Weight loss: Weight loss gets a whole lot easier when you’re not starving. Most people who go carnivore find they’re unable to eat enough to gain body fat; the diet that is most satiating while still being nutritious will almost always come out ahead without even trying.
What Do You Eat On a Carnivore Diet?
At the heart of it, the carnivore diet is very simple: eat only animal foods and do not eat plant foods.
Meat: beef, lamb, bison, pork, chicken, turkey, venison
Seafood: fish, shellfish, shrimp, crab, lobster
Animal foods: eggs, bone broth, animal fat, bone marrow, organs
Eating food from all three categories on a consistent basis is important for obtaining all the nutrients you need.
The following foods are contentious and not all carnivores eat or accept them.
Dairy: milk, cheese, cream, butter; some carnivores avoid lactose and only eat low-lactose dairy like hard cheeses and butter and cream.
Honey: since honey comes from bees, which are animals, honey is technically a carnivore-friendly source of carbohydrates.
Most carnivores allow salt and pepper. Some use herbs and spices and even things like garlic. Some carnivore dieters avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol because they’re made from plants. Others permit them.
Carnivore vs. Keto
If carnivore sounds a lot like keto, you’re right. There are many similarities between carnivore and keto.
They’re both lower-carb and higher-fat than other diets.
They may both help you reach ketosis.
They both involve eating a lot of animal products.
The main difference is that keto contains plants and carnivore isn’t necessarily low-carb.
You could be keto and eat entire salad bowls full of leafy greens.
You could be carnivore and eat 100 grams worth of carbohydrates from milk.
You could be carnivore and eat more protein and more moderate amounts of fat, while keto is by definition a high-fat diet.
But, as commonly practiced, the two can be very similar. Most carnivore dieters eat close to zero carbs, a good amount of fat, and are in ketosis much of the time. Most keto dieters eat more animal products than the average person. It’s very easy to combine the two. In fact, there’s a clinic in Hungary called Paleomedicina that does exactly this, using a high-fat “paleolithic ketogenic” carnivore diet (2:1-3:1 fat:protein ratio) to treat patients with otherwise intractable chronic autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s, and rheumatoid arthritis. Not only are they getting great clinical results, they’re getting great results and closely tracking relevant biomarkers.
Which leads me to the next section…
Who Should Try Carnivore?
Anyone can try it. Populations for whom carnivore seems to work best are people with autoimmune or immune ystem diseases like eczema or rheumatoid arthritis, and people with gut disorders like IBS or Crohn’s.
People with autoimmune and gut disorders almost always have dysfunctional and dysregulated gut biomes, and carnivore represents a hard “reset” for the gut. You pull out all the fermentable fibers and sugars and carbohydrates and gut-disrupting antinutrients found in plant foods and go back to square one.
Carnivore Diet Pros
Animal nutrients are more bioavailable.
Plant nutrients usually undergo a conversion process before humans can utilize them, and not every human has the same conversion capacity. Meanwhile, animals and their constituent parts contain nutrients in the perfect form for other animals to absorb. Retinol is the “animal form” of vitamin A, and it’s far more effective than beta-carotene, the plant form. Long-chained omega-3s found in seafood are far more effective than shorter-chained omega-3s found in plants, which must be converted to the longer “animal form.” Name a nutrient, and it’s probably more bioavailable in animal form.
Animal foods contain unique nutrients you can’t get in plants.
Some of those essential and/or helpful nutrients only occur in meat, like creatine, carnosine, taurine, or vitamin B12. If you don’t eat meat, there’s literally no realistic way to obtain these essential (or conditionally essential) nutrients without relying on supplementation, which didn’t exist until the last hundred years.
Animal foods have no toxins.
Because animals can run and bite and claw and fly to get away from predators, they don’t need to employ kind of passive chemical warfare that many plants use to dissuade predation. Plants cannot run. They cannot move, and so they must manufacture chemicals that irritate guts or outright poison the animals who seek to eat them. There are no phytates, lectins, gluten, oxalates, or other problematic compounds in a ribeye. Except for blatant allergies and intolerances to red meat, like the ones that arise with a Lone Star tick bite, meat is safe from a toxin standpoint.
Eating meat made us human.
When hominids ate very little meat, maybe grabbing a leg bone here, a lizard here or a mouse there, our brains were much smaller and less impressive. As hominids progressed and grew more intelligent, their diets changed to include more and more animal food. They started out as scavengers, cracking bones and skulls left behind by more obligate predators. They developed thrusting weapons. They became incredible throwers and developed lethal projectiles. They developed language and tactics to coordinate assaults and lay traps. And as the meat poured in, the brains grew. Humans as we are them today emerged stepwise with meat.
My take is that it was a combination of a few things:
- Animal meat, fat, and animal-based nutrients. The human expanded as we ate more and more meat, although the causality isn’t clear . It could be the nutrients, protein, and calories found in animal foods provided a stimulus for brain expansion. It could be that our desire for meat necessitated an expanding brain to enhance our intelligence, cunning, tool-making, and hunting ability—that those humans whose brains expanded were better adapted to hunting. It could be all of that at once (my guess).
- Fire. With fire, we could extract more calories from both plant and animal foods—cooked tubers are more digestible than raw and fire allowed us to access the residual calories bound up in bones and connective tissue. Paleo-anthropologists call this “grease processing”: boiling pulverized animal bones in animal skins to extract every last drop of fat, gelatin, and protein.
Seafood. Early humans were coastal dwellers. Researcher Stephen Cunanne has been beating this drum for over a decade, showing through anthropological and neurological evidence that the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA was necessary for human evolution and brain development.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22074361‘>2
Two, it’s unclear whether fiber is necessary. Clearly, it’s not essential in the sense that you will die without it. And there’s evidence that “more fiber” is necessarily helpful in digestive disorders, and may even be harmful. But there is good evidence that prebiotic fiber offers beneficial metabolic and gut health effects in the average person eating an average omnivorous diet. And no, it’s not just about fecal hypertrophy. There is real evidence that feeding your gut bacteria soluble and prebiotic fiber can enhance health and produce beneficial metabolites.
Where the question remains is whether those benefits occur in carnivorous dieters, or whether carnivorous dieters need fiber. Is fiber necessary only on omnivorous diets? Perhaps. I suspect we’ll learn more as time goes on.
While meat is a great way to get bioavailable sources of most B vitamins and many other unique nutrients, plants are the primary sources of folate, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C in the diet.
If you’re not careful, a low-carb diet can lead to low levels of folate.https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf040401o‘>4 Used in marinades and sauces, plants and herbs can reduce the formation of carcinogens during the cooking process. And every traditional culture we’ve ever seen—even the Inuit and Masaai—consumed plant foods on a regular basis and considered them important and even essential.
If you are someone who reacts poorly to the plant compounds found in vegetables, you may be better off not eating any. Vegetables aren’t required for survival like meat and animal fat are required. But if you can tolerate vegetables, it’s a good idea to eat them. To me, the benefits are great enough that I recommend most people (even carnivores) sample vegetables until they find some they can tolerate. Remember: there’s a difference between eating vegetables for calories and eating vegetables for medicinal purposes.
There are also acute issues that sometimes arise with carnivore diets.
What happens if you’re not pooping like you should?
Confirm you’re actually constipated. Carnivore is a low-residue diet. There’s not much left over after you absorb everything. You’re not eating loads of fiber and most of the nutrients you’re taking in are highly bioavailable. No matter what happens, you won’t be practicing fecal hypertrophy like you were on an omnivorous diet containing fiber. Your “lack” of pooping may be totally normal.
Get more electrolytes. Salt, magnesium, and potassium all impact your digestion. Potassium and magnesium in particular are required for optimal muscle contractions, including the muscle contractions that move food along the digestive tract. Salt provides the chloride we need to produce hydrochloric acid, aka stomach acid.
Check your fat intake. A mistake some people make when starting a carnivore diet is eating too much lean meat. Adding in fattier cuts of meat can speed things up.
Give it time. Your gut biome is adjusting to the new environment. Things may take awhile to normalize. Resistant starch can help here.
Back when Joe Rogan went carnivore for a spell, he had incredible energy and body composition shifts but first had to get past the “explosive diarrhea.” Reports from others around the Internet suggest that this isn’t rare for people just starting out. What to do?
Too much fat, too fast. Increase fat intake more gradually.
Rapid shifts in the gut biome. Suddenly removing all the substrate your gut bacteria were eating can throw things off. Give it some time.
Resistant starch if it persists. If the diarrhea lasts longer than a couple days, try a little raw potato starch (for resistant starch) to improve consistency.
If you noticed, the reasons for diarrhea track closely with the reasons for constipation. Changes to the gut biome can manifest differently along the same diarrhea/constipation spectrum and often have the same solution.
Carnivore Diet Supplements
If you do it perfectly, a carnivore diet should contain all or most of the nutrients you need to thrive. But supplements can make it easier, and they may optimize your experience. A few to consider:
- Mineral water
- Freeze-dried organs
- Fish oil
- Broad-spectrum polyphenol blend
Magnesium: Important electrolyte, vital participant in over 300 physiological functions, and rather hard to get on a pure carnivorous diet. Almost everyone should be supplementing with magnesium.
Mineral water: A good mineral-dense sparkling water like Gerolsteiner is a nice way to obtain hard-to-get minerals like magnesium and calcium.
Freeze-dried organs: The ideal is to eat liver, heart, kidney, and/or spleen on a regular basis. They’re more nutrient-dense and contain wide ranges of nutrients you won’t find elsewhere in the animal. If you can’t or won’t eat fresh organs, you can get freeze-dried capsules.
Fish oil: If you’re not eating seafood, you need a source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is the most straightforward way to get them.
Collagen: Collagen is necessary to balance out your intake of muscle meat—which will be elevated on a carnivore diet. In the absence of a steady intake of gelatinous bone broth or direct consumption of connective tissue, collagen peptides become essential.
Broad-spectrum polyphenol blend: The carnivore people go back and forth on polyphenols. Are they plant poisons? Plant pesticides? The point remains that the evidence in favor of polyphenol intake is quite robust. And yes, polyphenols are stressors. They act as plant toxins that our bodies interpret as hormetic stressors and trigger a beneficial response. I wouldn’t take something like this every day (nor do I), but I would take it intermittently as a stand-in for intermittent plant consumption.
Electrolytes: Electrolytes are essential, especially on any carb-restricted diet (keto, low-carb, carnivore, etc). There’s this dedicated electrolyte supplement that Robb Wolf helped design, or there’s my own Collagen Quench mix that also contains collagen, vitamin C, and polyphenols (from fruit powder) in addition to the potassium and sodium.
So, Does Carnivore Work?
Carnivore appears to work.
A big part of staying healthy in the modern environment is the erection of artificial boundaries and the self-administration of artificial hardships. We could eat 10000 calories of junk food a day if we wanted. We could sit on the couch and be entertained and have all our food delivered to us if we wanted. Most of us never have to do an iota of actual physical labor if we don’t want to. But because doing that would make us sick and fat, we limit ourselves to moderate amounts of healthy real food, we go the gym, and we make it a point to take walks. These are artificial interventions we enact to emulate the ancestral environment to which we are adapted. These are boundaries.
There isn’t a simpler boundary to set than “eat animals, don’t eat plants.” And therein lies the power.
Now, I’m not going carnivore anytime soon. Although I have shifted my eating in that direction, I’ll always die on the “Big Ass Salads are great” hill (even if I’m loading them up with extra meat and cheese). Carnivore is exciting because it reveals that there’s room for extremes:
It shows that eating only meat won’t kill you—and it may make you stronger. It won’t give you diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, or make you obese. A diet based on animal foods is safe and, for many people, optimal.
Gut health is paramount. Health starts in the gut, as Hippocrates said, and extends to every manifestation of your wellness. Carnivore might not be the only way to fix a leaky, dysfunctional gut, but the fact that it’s so good at improving gut health-related conditions should give you pause.
Plant foods are not benign. The popular conception of a “healthy diet” is one awash in leafy greens, broccoli, whole grains, and other plant foods. Mountains of produce, a “baby’s fist-sized piece of lean meat.” Even those of us who’ve been weird enough to eat low-carb diets rich in animal fat for years often have a tough time washing that stereotype from our consciousness.
Carnivore repudiates what all the health authorities tell us to do. It’s the exact opposite of what our moral and scientific “betters” have been preaching for decades. And because I’ve always been an iconoclast, someone who bristles at the thought of being told what to do, this appeals to me. I’ve never been convinced by the shoddy evidence that meat is bad for us. That entire legions of people are eating nothing but meat and failing to come down with the colon cancer and heart disease they’re “supposed to” is endlessly satisfying.
Once more, I don’t think carnivore is necessarily sustainable for a lifetime, especially if you don’t take special care to eat nose-to-tail-to-tendon-to-tripe-to-skin. But I do think it’s worth a hard look for people with autoimmune diseases, gut disorders, or those people for whom no other diet has worked. I think carnivore-adjacent eating will become a thing. I think carnivore cycling paired with cycles of omnivory will prove useful for a great many people.
What about you, everyone? Have you tried the carnivore diet? Would you?
Powered by WPeMatico
Powered by WPeMatico
Today we welcome a post by guest author Ashleigh VanHouten, health and nutrition journalist, public speaker, certified health coach, and host of the Muscle Maven Radio podcast. Here, she explains why we’re missing out if we’re only eating boring boneless cuts of meat from the grocery store, and makes the case for eating nose-to-tail, for both our health and for our enjoyment. Her new cookbook, It Takes Guts, is available for preorder and hits the shelves in late October.
“It’s good for you and for the planet – and it’s easier and tastier than you think!” – Ashleigh VanHouten
Modified excerpt from It Takes Guts, shared with publisher permission.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “I just can’t get my head around eating [insert type of organ meat here] because I didn’t grow up eating it,” I could retire now and live out the rest of my days eating animal hearts on a beach somewhere — but I have a secret for you. I didn’t grow up eating organ meat, either; I grew up eating cereal and bread and chicken breast, and while I always gravitated toward animal products, I certainly wasn’t eating liver or sweetbreads.
But as someone who has dedicated their career to researching, studying, and experimenting with nutrition, I believe strongly that one bite of something new won’t hurt you, and it just might open up a whole new world of pleasure and health. It’s a fact that organs are generally the most nutrient-dense parts of an animal, so if we can find fun and creative and even subtle ways to enjoy them, we’re winning. And by eating the whole animal, we’re also honoring and respecting the beings who sacrificed for our dinner plates by ensuring none of it is wasted.
I wrote my nose-to-tail cookbook It Takes Guts because I am passionate about honoring the animals we’re eating, and enjoying the full bounty of delicious and healthy options available to us. As the saying goes, the way you do anything is the way you do everything, and I believe we should all be approaching our plates, and our lives, with a sense of adventure and enthusiasm.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the reasons why eating organ meats is a good idea:
It would be wasteful to buy a huge house and use only one or two rooms, right? Adopting a whole-animal approach reduces waste, and buying from local farms and butchers helps decrease the carbon footprint created when meat is brought to you from far-flung places. In the process of breaking down an animal, less than half of it will usually end up as boneless cuts,
or the type of meat you normally pick up at a grocery store. Much of the rest is bone, hide, blood, and organs – the latter being the most nutrient-dense part of the animal, which we are essentially giving away to then eat the less nutrient-dense muscle meat!
If you’re reading this, you probably eat animals, and if you’ve accepted that eating animals is a natural part of living, the best way forward is to ensure that the animals you’re eating lived a healthy, natural life and were slaughtered humanely, and that we honor the animal’s sacrifice by not wasting any of it over arbitrary (and misguided) beliefs that some part of the animal are acceptable to eat and others aren’t.
It’s a fact: organ meats like liver, heart, and kidney are nutritional powerhouses, not just for their individual nutrients but for the synergistic effect of consuming these nutrients together. Nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, and magnesium work together with other food-based compounds. That’s why taking many of these nutrients on their own (in pill form, for example) doesn’t have as much of a positive effect on your body.
And to debunk a big myth about these cuts, it is untrue that organ meats like liver and kidney store and contain toxins. Organs like the liver filter toxins, usually moving them to the kidneys, from which they are eventually expelled through the urine. Toxins are removed from a healthy, well-functioning animal’s body via these miraculous organs just like they are in ours; eating fresh, healthy organs is the same as eating fresh, healthy muscle meat. If toxins do linger in the body, they are generally stored in fat cells (this goes for us too), which is why it’s crucial to source high-quality animal protein that is raised without pesticides or antibiotics, because that’s where they’ll end up: in your delicious, fatty rib-eye.
Organ meats are so nutrient-dense that you can eat very small amounts and get more benefit than you would from nearly any other food on the planet. A few ounces of beef liver contains your daily needs for many nutrients, including iron, copper, zinc, folate, choline, and vitamins A and B12. So even if I can’t convince you to love the taste of organ meats, I hope I can help you understand that these are superfoods that can dramatically improve your health.
It Saves You Money
Often, organ meats are less expensive than muscle meats simply because they aren’t in high demand. Imagine the nutrient-dense parts being sold for scraps while the basic protein is sold at a premium! Unlike prime cuts of grass-fed beef, grass-fed beef liver and heart are pretty cheap. A beef tongue can feed a party of six for about ten bucks; chicken hearts are often sold for a few bucks a pound; and you can buy a bag of tasty, protein packed chicken gizzards that will serve a whole family for less than you’d pay for a fancy salad at your local fast-casual restaurant.
If you want to get the best nutritional bang for your buck with protein, your best bet is to throw some offal in there. Make friends with your local butcher, too, so you learn about and source the best stuff!
It’s Fun (and Ancestral!)
If you can reframe your perceptions of organ meat being “gross” or extreme and see it for what it really is—just a different part of the animal you’re already eating, and a much more nutritious part at that—you can start having fun with different recipes and preparations.
Nose-to-tail eating is also a celebration of culture and history, honoring the traditional foods off different countries; a time when people were less swayed by grocery store marketing and more driven by instinct; when we gave more respect to the time, skill, and labor of providing meals for our families, and when nourishment mattered more than hyperpalatability.
It’s Tasty (Really!)
Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it—that’s what I’m always telling my skeptics. While certain organ meats have stronger flavors and unique textures and may never appeal to some people, the same can be said for less controversial foods (don’t even get me started on broccoli—now that’s an acquired taste!) I know I’ll never win everyone over, but if you’re willing to at least try,
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how delicious, delicate, and decadent offal can be. If you’d like to learn more about the health, history, and deliciousness of organ meats, including my personal journey and more than 75 offal-based recipes created by myself and a range of other fantastic chefs, you can pre-order my book, It Takes Guts, now!
Ashleigh VanHouten is a health and nutrition journalist, public speaker, certified health coach, and self-proclaimed muscle nerd. She has written for Paleo Magazine for more than eight years, along with a number of other health publications. She hosts the Muscle Maven Radio podcast, which has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times, where she’s interviewed some of the biggest names in health and wellness, including Mark Sisson, Dave Asprey, and Steph Gaudreau. She’s also worked with other top-rated health-related podcasts, such as Barbell Shrugged, Muscle Intelligence, and Paleo Magazine Radio. Combining her formal education and professional experience in marketing and communications with her passion for healthy eating, exercise, and learning, Ashleigh works in a consulting role for a number of professionals in the health and wellness world, working alongside individuals like Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, Ben Pakulski, and Elle Russ. Find out more at ashleighvanhouten.com.
Powered by WPeMatico
Powered by WPeMatico
Powered by WPeMatico
Powered by WPeMatico
Powered by WPeMatico
Powered by WPeMatico